This October more than 5,000 people gathered in 12 different cities across the UK to protest against the government’s planned disability cuts. Campaigners are protesting against Government aims to introduce PIP (Personal Independence Payment), to replace DLA (Disability living allowance).
This new system will aim to save money by enforcing stricter checks and regulations on those claiming for disability allowances. This has left many fearful that this may lead to a reduction in their benefits. The Bristol public showed their commitment to the campaign against these propositions, congregating on College Green, chanting and waving banners.
A huge range of ages and disabilities were represented and some people showed significant strain during the march. One woman with Parkinson’s disease voiced her discomfort, saying, ‘I struggled to do the march because of my legs but was okay after taking my medication.’
Among the protesters was Gus Baker, the Students’ Union President who told Epigram, ‘Tory and Lib Dem cuts to disability funding will trap some people in their own houses, and even their own bodies. As one blind speaker at the march said - disabled people didn't cause the recession and the financial crisis; but they are paying the price for it.’
Many University of Bristol students will be hit hard by the cuts. There are over 300 disabled students at Bristol and many more who have disabled family members or friends. The University of Bristol Students’Union will campaign hard against the cuts.
At the heart of the reforms is a new and improved objective assessment of individual need. In just eight years, the number of people claiming Disability Living Allowance has risen from 2.5 million to 3.2 million, an increase of around 30 per cent. The fact the DLA has not been fully reformed or looked at since its instigation 19 years ago and its current lack of basic checks both acted as the impetus for serious change.
Full time carers of disabled relatives are also dreading new legislation, as are those with disabilities, which they feel could be overlooked as a result of the new assessment scheme. Around 130,000 people since DLA was introduced in 1992 have never had their claims looked at since getting the benefit. It aims to get a further 35,000 disabled people back into work, beginning from 2013.